It certainly appears at least for the moment that fears of a sophomore slump for JuJu Smith-Schuster can be put to bed, as the second-year Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver has gotten off to a great start on the season. Through two games, he already has 18 receptions for 240 yards and a touchdown. He posted at least 100 yards in each of the first two games and caught a career-high 13 passes yesterday.
That was the first time in his career in which he posted consecutive 100-yard games in his career—within one season. He actually has at least 100 receiving yards in each of his past three regular season games dating back to the finale a year ago, in which he caught nine passes for 143 yards and a touchdown.
That was one of three 100-yard games of his rookie season, highlighted by a breakout seven-catch, 193-yard game in which he provided a 97-yard touchdown catch-and-run, the longest offensive play in Steelers history and the longest passing play of Ben Roethlisberger’s career.
With Antonio Brown not appearing to be at 100 percent so far this year, the Steelers have needed Smith-Schuster to step up, and he has—if you ignore the fact that Pittsburgh has a draw and a loss in its first two games so far.
It took the 21-year-old to help jumpstart the offense. After they puttered through several drives, it was consecutive receptions of 19, 12, and 14 yards that put the Steelers on the Chiefs’ 26-yard line, where Roethlisberger found Jesse James on the next play for their first points of the game.
on Pittsburgh’s following possession, he caught an 11-yard pass on second and 10 to put the Steelers inside the five, and two plays layer showed strong hands in holding onto a contested pass at the shallow left corner of the end zone for his first touchdown of the season.
Yet again, Smith-Schuster was simultaneously lit and Gucci on the team’s fourth consecutive touchdown possession to start the third quarter. First he went for 15 yards on second and seven, and then added a 21-yard reception on a deep pass on second and nine to cross midfield. He converted on a shovel pass on third and one at the Chiefs’ 26.
Yet that was pretty much it. He was mysteriously less of a target in for the remainder of the game, receiving seven more low-quality targets, five of which came on the final possession. Two went for seven yards, another for minus two, the others off-line and incomplete.
But it’s pretty telling that it was Smith-Schuster that Roethlisberger repeatedly at that critical moment of the game, and not Brown, who was only targeted once, for an incompletion. He was thrown to 19 times in all, nearly a third of all of the Steelers’ pass attempts in the game.